Are you antibiotic aware?

antibioticAntibiotics are a precious resource that are losing their power because we are not using them responsibly.

Introduced to the world in the late 1930s, antibiotics fight bacterial infections and diseases. Since their introduction, they have saved millions of lives. However, the effectiveness of antibiotics is at risk, due to antibiotic resistance.


What is antibiotic resistance?

The World Health Organisation has warned that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health today.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change to protect themselves from an antibiotic, thereby causing the antibiotic to be ineffective against them. The more antibiotics are used, the higher the likelihood of antibiotic resistance.

In Australia, around 29 million prescriptions for antibiotics are issued each year — one of the highest prescription rates for antibiotics in the world.

According to NPS Medicinewise, major causes of antibiotic resistance include:

  • using antibiotics when they are not needed
  • not taking antibiotics at the doses and times that a doctor prescribes, allowing time for the bacteria in your system to become resistant.

Antibiotic resistance is a serious health issue already present in our community. However, it is set to become even more serious.

It is predicted that antibiotic resistance could lead to an extra 10 million deaths globally each year, by 2050, at a global cost of up to USD$100 trillion!


What can YOU do?

We all have a responsibility to fight antibiotic resistance. And the good news is that we can.

Simple actions individuals can do to help stop the spread of antibiotic resistant infections include:

  • not pressuring your doctor for antibiotics when you have a cold or flu, as these are viral infections
  • only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary
  • take your antibiotic medication as prescribed, ensuring you take the entire course, even if you start to feel better

Health professionals can play an important role by adhering to best practice prescribing guidelines and advising patients when antibiotics are not appropriate.


Join Antibiotic Awareness Week

Antibiotic Awareness Week, held from 14-20 November is an annual, global event to raise awareness about the serious health issue of antibiotic resistance. The event encourages people around the world to use antibiotics responsibly.

This Antibiotic Awareness Week, health professionals and individuals alike will be asked to ‘take the pledge’ to fight antibiotic resistance.

To find our more information about antibiotic resistance, the awareness campaign, and how you can help preserve the miracle of antibiotics, visit NPS Medicinewise   and download their campaign toolkit.




Generic Medicines: are they safe?

Are generic medicines safe?You’ve probably been to the pharmacy to have a prescription filled only to have a conversation that goes something like this:

Pharmacist: “Would you like a cheaper brand if it’s available?”

You: “Umm. What? A cheaper brand? Oh, um, I don’t know. Ah no, I’ll have the brand on the script, thanks.”

But what if that cheaper brand could do the same thing as the brand on the script, at a fraction of the price? Would you say ‘yes’ then?


Generic medicines — a bit like generic supermarket products

Just like supermarkets products have their generic equivalent, some medicines do as well. To understand why, you need to understand how medicines are developed.

After a pharmaceutical company develops a medicine, it takes out a patent on the product. This ensures that the company has the exclusive right to manufacture and sell that drug, meaning there is no competition from other pharmaceutical companies.

However, patents don’t last forever. When they expire, other drug companies are allowed to manufacture their own equivalent of the original medicine, in different packaging, providing these drugs are bioequivalent — that is, the medicine contains the same active ingredients. These medicines also meets the same government standards as the original medicine, for safety and efficiency. They are known as generic medicines.


Are generics the same as the original?

No. While generic medicines contain the same active ingredients as the original medication, and therefore have the same effect, some of the inactive substances may be different. For example:

  • binders and fillers (that hold tablets together)
  • flavourings
  • colourings
  • preservatives.

Are generic medicines safe?Most people will be able to take generic medications with no problems. However, some people may be allergic or intolerant to an ingredient the original branded medicine doesn’t contain. For example, some people may be lactose or gluten intolerant, or be allergic to some preservatives or colourings. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you.

It’s also worth noting that the potential side effects of the generic medication will be similar to the original one.


Should I take generics?

Overall, generic medicines are safe, efficient and can often save you money, but before taking them, ask your pharmacist the following five questions:

  1. Is it okay for me to choose a different brand of my medicine?
  2. What are the benefits and disadvantages for me if I use a different brand?
  3. Is there a difference in cost?
  4. Which of my usual medicines does this replace?
  5. What is the active ingredient in my medicine?

There are some generic medicines (such as warfarin), that may contain the same active ingredient but not be bioequivalent. In this case, stick with your usual brand. Your pharmacist should supply you with the brand that has been prescribed. Of course, if your doctor advises you to stick with one brand, then you should do so.

Most of the time, generic medicines are close enough to the original brand to be safe and effective. However, you have the final say in whether you take a generic substitute or the original medication.

For further information visit


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Occasional medicine users don’t get full benefit of medication

Pills And WaterRecent survey findings have revealed that occasional users of medicines — including prescription, over-the-counter, and alternative or complementary forms of medicines — are potentially not getting the full benefits from their medicines, compared to people who take medicines more often.

The survey (conducted for NPS MedicineWise by Galaxy Research) showed people who take medicines less often or who take fewer medicines are more likely to stop a course of medicine early without speaking to the health professional that prescribed or recommended the medicine to them, and less likely to follow instructions relating to their medicines

Furthermore, nearly 1 in 6 people (15%) don’t take their medicine as instructed, this is more common in those who are younger, those who take medicines less than daily, and those who take fewer medicines.


Why you should take your medicine

Medicines (whether short-term or long-term) are important in treating illnesses and sometimes preventing them, so you need to use them correctly to avoid further health complications.

Often medications are used for a short time, but there are some cases where your doctor may want you to keep taking medication for a longer period of time.

NPS MedicineWise medical adviser Dr Jeannie Yoo says that sometimes good reasons to stop taking a medicine, before stopping it’s best to first speak with a health professional such as a doctor, pharmacist or nurse.

“Taking your medicine as instructed, including taking the right dose at the right time, is also really important to help you improve your health outcomes,” she says.

stay safe with OTC medications“‘Even though you might be feeling better, if you don’t feel a medicine is helping you it’s always a good idea to speak to health professionals first to check that it is safe to stop the medicine. For example, some regular medicines need to be stopped slowly or to be replaced by another medicine to prevent serious effects on your health,” says Dr Yoo.

How to be medicinewise

To ensure your safety, and it’s important to be medicinewise. This means:

  • Understanding what your medicine is for
  • Reading the labels and packaging of your medicines carefully
  • Understanding how and when to take your medicine
  • Always following instructions from your health professional
  • Never sharing your medicine with anyone else, and ensuring young children can’t access it.

Equipping yourself with the NPS Medicine Wise MedicineList+ smartphone app (with its medicine reminders and links to medicines information) can help you manage your medicines safely and wisely.

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) or visit

Prepared from a media release from NPS Medicinewise 24 August, 2016

You’re never too old to be medicinewise

diferent Tablets pills capsule heap mixIn a recent survey of Australian adults more than half (52%) believed that all adults have the same risk of experiencing side effects from prescription medicine, regardless of age. Only 16% of respondents believed that those aged over 65 years are at greater risk of medicine side effects than those aged 18 to 64 years.*

This is just one of many misconceptions surrounding medicine. According to NPS MedicineWise the way our body handles and reacts to medicines can gradually change, as we age.

Older people can become more sensitive to medicine side effects and medicine interactions as they age, and the way the body processes medicines can change.

NPS MedicineWise Clinical Adviser Dr Andrew Boyden says, “Things don’t suddenly change when you turn 65, but gradual changes over time mean that the effect a medicine has on someone a little older could be different to the effect a medicine had when they were younger. Age-related changes need to be taken into account and can affect a health professional’s recommendations regarding the types and doses of medicine that are suitable.

“It’s important for people to be aware that they can become more sensitive to medicines as they age. Side effects can lead to serious consequences such as falls, broken bones, accidents and hospitalisation.”

Results from the survey also revealed that 37% of respondents aged 65 and older said they had taken five or more different types of prescription medicines over the past month.

With many older Australians taking multiple medicines, it can be a contributing factor to medicines mistakes. Around one third of unplanned hospital admissions involving older Australians are due to problems with medicines and many of these could be prevented.

Pills And Water“Generally speaking if more than five medicines a day are being taken (and that includes prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines), the risk of experiencing side effects and interactions greatly increases,” says Dr Boyden.

“A key part of being medicinewise is learning the best ways to manage multiple medicines. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or other health professional. There are many tools and resources available that can help, like packaging and reminder systems.”

If you take multiple medicines ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines, particularly if you are aged over 65 years.

Further information is available here.

*Online survey of 1,000 adults undertaken by Galaxy Research for NPS MedicineWise 17-20 September, 2015.

Based on a Media Release from NPS Medicine, 16/10/15